No Killed Animals, please

April 18, 2010

Just a little note to anyone with whom I might be sharing a meal: I’ve mulled over the issue of the right treatment of animals for some time and have been “sympathetic” to ethical vegetarianism (I’m insufficiently informed to have any strong opinion on the nutritional issues involved). I finally decided that being “sympathetic” to an ethical claim of this magnitude is not enough, when the point is that, if true, it should change one’s behavior, and so I’ve decided that I’m not eating meat anymore. (I know that many of those animals would never have been bred, and therefore would never have lived, were it not for meat-eating humans, but the same argument could be used to justify cannibalizing humans who might not exist — individually, not as a species — without factory-farming and if the argument doesn’t convince there, it doesn’t work with pigs or goats, either. I also recognize degrees of mistreatment, so free-range meat is less objectionable than factory-confined meat, shrimp are on the borderline, and oysters, which lack a central nervous system, seem acceptable to me. Nor do I think that animals have “rights” like humans do; I just think that we have obligations not to mistreat them. A very interesting, often moving, somewhat rambling, but insightful treatment is found in Matthew Scully’s Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.)

My point here is not to debate anyone, but just to note that meat is off my diet. (I ought to note that I was influenced by the example of a colleague whom I admire who has avoided eating meat or otherwise promoting the killing of animals for some time for ethical reasons, despite sometimes having, as he acknowledged to me, a strong appetite for meat. If he can suppress his appetite in order to do the right thing, I can, too.)

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